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Turkish FM says Sweden’s possible NATO membership requires more discussion

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Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has said there is a need for more discussion about whether Sweden’s possible membership in NATO will be a burden for the military alliance or bring benefit to it, Deutsche Welle Turkish edition reported.

Fidan’s remarks came during a news conference in Ankara with Ayman Safadi, the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Jordan, on Tuesday.

After once again condemning a recent Quran burning protest in Sweden and the Swedish authorities’ failure to prevent it, Fidan said the issue of whether Sweden’s possible membership in NATO will be a burden or bring benefit to the alliance is now more open to discussion from the point of view of strategic and security issues.

An Iraqi man burned the Quran outside Stockholm’s main mosque after Swedish police granted a permit for the demonstration, which coincided with the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha on Wednesday and attracted widespread criticism.

Fidan, who served as head of Turkey’s national intelligence organization between 2010 and May 2023, was appointed foreign minister after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won re-election in May.

Fidan’s remarks came at a time when top diplomats from Turkey and Sweden are due to meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss Stockholm’s NATO membership bid.

Sweden has been a NATO “invitee” since June 2022, but its membership bid, which must be ratified by all 31 member states, has been blocked by Turkey and Hungary.

Western officials have hoped Turkey’s President Erdoğan would soften his position on the diplomatically charged issue after he secured the hard-fought re-election in May.

Western allies and Stockholm have insisted that Sweden has met the terms of a deal agreed with Ankara last year.

That accord includes a commitment to crack down on opposition Kurdish movements, such as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and political dissidents blacklisted by Ankara, which considers them “terrorist” groups.

Turkey dropped objections to Sweden’s Nordic neighbor Finland joining earlier in the year, and Helsinki became a NATO member in April.

The Nordic countries ended their years-long military non-alignment and applied for NATO memberhsip in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Western officials had hoped to formally welcome Sweden into the bloc by the time of a NATO summit in Lithuania on July 11-12, but prospects for Turkey’s approval of the country’s NATO bid seem low.

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